EU Commissioner Hopeful People Vaccinated With AstraZeneca Can Enter US

European commissioner for internal market Thierry Breton gives a press conference about the new European Health Emergency preparedness and response authority (Hera), in Brussels, on September 16, 2021. (Photo by François WALSCHAERTS / AFP)

 

While Washington has not authorised the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19, a European commissioner on Monday expressed hope that travellers from the continent inoculated with the jab will soon be able to enter the United States.

The US government on Monday announced that starting November 1, it will lift the pandemic travel ban on all air passengers who are fully vaccinated and undergo testing and contact tracing.

The unprecedented travel restrictions had raised tensions between the United States and its European allies and had kept relatives, friends and business travelers around the world separated for many months as the pandemic grinds on.

In an interview in Washington with AFP, Thierry Breton, European commissioner for internal market, said the new order covers people vaccinated with jabs recognized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The agency has not approved the AstraZeneca shot used by many European nations, however, Breton said he spoke with White House pandemic response coordinator Jeff Zients who “sounded positive and optimistic.”

However, Zients told him that “for the other vaccines, for AstraZeneca in particular, their health agency would decide.”

Whether a decision would come by November 1 when travel resumes, Zients “seemed positive on the dates, too,” said Breton, who coordinates the EU’s supply of Covid-19 vaccines.

Breton said the restrictions “no longer made any sense.”

Despite Europe’s relatively high vaccination rates “we are on the same restrictions as China, Iran, and other countries. It makes no sense at all,” he said.

The United States first imposed the restrictions as the pandemic began in March 2020 on travelers from the European Union, United Kingdom, and China, later extending it to India and Brazil.

However, the availability of Covid-19 vaccines has made continuing the travel ban a point of transatlantic tension.

That worsened in recent days after Australia’s sudden announcement that it will acquire US-built nuclear submarines as part of a new defense alliance, ditching a contract with France for conventionally powered submarines.

AFP

US Hopes Taliban Will ‘Respect Rights Of’ Afghans

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 16: U.S. President Joe Biden gestures as he gives remarks on the worsening crisis in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House August 16, 2021 in Washington, DC.  Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/AFP

 

The United States called Tuesday on the Taliban to follow through on promises made after their takeover of Afghanistan to respect the rights of citizens including women.

“If the Taliban says they are going to respect the rights of their citizens, we will be looking for them to uphold that statement and make good on that statement,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

The Taliban at their first news conference after taking over Kabul said Tuesday that they were committed to human rights along Islamic lines.

READ ALSO: Uganda Offers To Take In Refugees From Afghanistan

Asked about the promise, Price said: “I think what will matter is what that looks like if and when we see it put into practice.”

“We have never taken them squarely at their word,” Price said of the Taliban.

The Taliban imposed draconian rules on women and girls during their 1996-2001 regime including banning female education.

 

AFP

‘Experience Of A Lifetime’: Billionaire Branson Achieves Space Dream

Sir Richard Branson speaks on stage with other crew members, after they flew into space aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, a voyage he described as the "experience of a lifetime" -- and one he hopes will usher in an era of lucrative space tourism at Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico on July 11, 2021. AFP
Sir Richard Branson speaks on stage with other crew members, after they flew into space aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, a voyage he described as the “experience of a lifetime” — and one he hopes will usher in an era of lucrative space tourism at Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico on July 11, 2021.

 

British billionaire Richard Branson flew into space Sunday aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, a voyage he described as the “experience of a lifetime” — and one he hopes will usher in an era of lucrative space tourism.

“Congratulations to all our wonderful team at Virgin Galactic for 17 years of hard, hard work to get us this far,” he said during a live feed as the VSS Unity spaceship glided back to Spaceport America in New Mexico.

It reached a peak altitude of around 53 miles (85 kilometers) — beyond the boundary of space, according to the United States — allowing the passengers to experience weightlessness and admire the Earth’s curvature.

The trip proceeded without drama, and touchdown occurred at around 9:40 am Mountain Time (1540 GMT), about an hour after take-off.

The mission’s success means Branson has beaten fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos in the race to be the first tycoon to cross the final frontier in a ship built by a company he founded.

Earlier, a massive carrier plane took off and ascended to 50,000 feet before dropping VSS Unity to complete the rest of the flight using its rocket-powered engine.

The spaceplane carried two pilots and four passengers, including Branson.

The ship then re-entered the atmosphere, lowered its flexible wings and glided back to the runway.

A smiling Branson hugged loved ones after the trip.

“It’s a beautiful day to go to space,” the brash Brit wrote in a tweet earlier where he posted a video of himself biking to the base and meeting with his crewmates, all Virgin employees.

He also posted a picture of himself standing in a kitchen with SpaceX boss Elon Musk, who’d come to show his support.

Several tourists journeyed to the International Space Station in the 2000s, but on Russian rockets.

Branson’s official role is to evaluate the private astronaut experience to enhance the journey for future clients.

Space base

Branson, who founded the Virgin Group that today has interests in everything from commercial aviation to fitness centers, is known for his appetite for adventure and has set world records in hot air ballooning and boating.

“As a child, I wanted to go to space,” the 70-year-old wrote a few days ahead of his trip.

He founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, but the dream almost came to an end in 2014 when an in-flight accident caused the death of a pilot, considerably delaying the program.

Since then, VSS Unity has successfully reached space three times, in 2018, 2019 — which included the first crew member who wasn’t a pilot — and finally in May this year.

Sunday’s flight left from Spaceport America, a huge base built in the Jornada del Muerto desert, around 20 miles southeast of the nearest town, Truth or Consequences.

Financed largely by the state of New Mexico, Virgin Galactic is the principal tenant.

Paying passengers in 2022?

After Sunday, Virgin Galactic plans two further flights, and then the start of regular commercial operations from early 2022. The ultimate goal is to conduct 400 flights per year.

Some 600 tickets have already been sold to people from 60 different countries — including Hollywood celebrities — for prices ranging from $200,000 to $250,000.

And though, according to Branson, “space belongs to us all,” the opportunity for now remains the preserve of the privileged.

“When we return, I will announce something very exciting to give more people the chance to become an astronaut,” he promised.

The competition in the space tourism sector, whose imminent rise has been announced for years, has come to a head this month.

Bezos, the richest person in the world, is due to fly on July 20 on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.

Blue Origin posted an infographic Friday boasting the ways in which the experience it offers is superior.

The principal point: New Shepard climbs up to more than 60 miles in altitude, thus exceeding what is called the Karman line, the frontier of space according to international convention.

Bezos himself wished Branson “best of luck” in an Instagram post.

AFP

Haiti Asks US, UN To Send Troops As Fears Of Instability Grow

Police are on the lookout for others suspected assassins of Haitian President Jovenel Moise outside the Embassy of Taiwan in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on July 9, 2021. Valerie Baeriswyl / AFP
Police are on the lookout for others suspected assassins of Haitian President Jovenel Moise outside the Embassy of Taiwan in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on July 9, 2021. Valerie Baeriswyl / AFP

 

Haiti has asked Washington and the UN for troops to secure its ports, airport and other strategic sites after the assassination of president Jovenel Moise opened a power vacuum in the crisis-hit Caribbean nation, an official said Friday.

The United States has already said it will send FBI and other agents to Port-au-Prince, two days after Moise was shot dead in his home.

In the wake of the slaying “we thought that mercenaries could destroy some infrastructure to create chaos … During a conversation with the US secretary of state and the UN we made this request,” elections minister Mathias Pierre told AFP.

The US State Department and Pentagon both confirmed receiving a request for “security and investigative assistance” and said officials remain in contact with Port-au-Prince, but did not specify whether military troops would be deployed.

The UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A UN diplomatic source had earlier indicated that a Security Council resolution was needed to do as the Haitians had asked.

Washington had already signaled its willingness to help the Haitian investigation, and White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki added Friday that senior FBI and other officials would be heading to the Caribbean as soon as possible.

The development came as questions swirled about who could have masterminded the audacious assassination, with most members of a hit squad of Colombians and Americans either dead or in custody, and no clear motive made public.

Amid the uncertainty, three men are being touted as potential leaders of the nation of 11 million people, more than half of whom are under the age of 20. There is no working parliament.

After days of paralysis in the capital, Port-au-Prince saw the timid return of people to the streets, shops opening and the resumption of public transport on Friday morning — but under a pall of apprehension.

People scrambled to stockpile basic necessities at supermarkets and queued to buy propane for cooking in anticipation of more instability.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or the day after … I am preparing for bad days ahead,” Port-au-Prince resident Marjory told AFP, as she and her husband stocked up on supplies at a store.

Gang violence, rife in the former French colony, also picked up again Friday, with clashes between groups paralyzing a major highway.

The city’s airport, shuttered after the attack, appeared to have reopened, according to Flightradar data.

Contract killers?

As the shock of the killing wore off, many in the poorest country in the Americas were demanding answers.

“Foreigners came to the country to perpetrate this crime. We, Haitians, are appalled,” a resident of the capital told AFP.

“We need to know who is behind this,” he added.

Police have said a 28-member hit squad of Colombians and Americans had carried out the attack, but that they were still seeking its masterminds.

Moise’s security team are in the hot seat and have been summoned to appear before the courts.

Others have speculated on the possible involvement of security agents in the killing, adding to the confusion.

“The president of the Republic, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated by his security agents,” former Haitian senator Steven Benoit said on Magik9 radio Friday.

“It is not Colombians who killed him. They were contracted by the Haitian state.”

Political chaos

One of Moise’s last acts as president on Monday was to appoint a new prime minister, Ariel Henry. He had not taken office when Moise was killed.

Hours after the assassination, Henry’s predecessor Claude Joseph said he was in charge.

While the opposition has accused Joseph of power-grabbing, the United Nations has said he had authority because Henry had not been sworn in.

Late Friday, a third option was floated.

In an attempt to emerge from what it called an “institutional and political vacuum,” the Senate voted on a resolution to make Senator Joseph Lambert the provisional president.

But the announcement is non-binding. While it does have some support among opposition politicians, not enough senators are currently in office to legally pass the resolution.

Haiti was already in the midst of an institutional crisis before the assassination.

Moise had not organized an election since he came to power in early 2017 and the country has had no parliament since January 2020. Moise had been ruling by decree.

Some alleged attackers, including both Americans, have been arrested. Three have been killed, and at least five are still on the run, officers said Friday.

The United States has said it is aware of the arrest of US citizens but declined further comment.

Colombia on Friday said 17 Colombian ex-soldiers were thought to have been involved, and that it will collaborate on the investigation.

 

AFP

Nine Children Among 10 Killed In Storm-Hit Alabama Crash

Drone image shows aftermath of a deadly crash of 18 vehicles on interstate 65 in Butler County, Alabama, on Sunday June 20, 2021, leaving 10 dead - 9 children and one adult.
Drone image shows aftermath of a deadly crash of 18 vehicles on interstate 65 in Butler County, Alabama, on Sunday June 20, 2021, leaving 10 dead – 9 children and one adult.

 

 

Nine children and an adult were killed in a fiery multi-vehicle crash on an Alabama highway as heavy storms lashed the southeastern US, authorities said Sunday.

Saturday’s crash on an interstate highway near the city of Greenville involved at least 15 vehicles and was “probably” caused by hydroplaning under torrential rains, Butler County coroner Wayne Garlock told AFP.

Storm Claudette dumped up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain in the Gulf Coast region Saturday. It was blamed for at least two other deaths.

The dead in the crash included a father and his nine-month-old daughter in an SUV, and eight occupants of a van — aged four to 17 — from a “girls ranch” for neglected and abused children, local media reported.

“This was probably the most horrific accident in Butler County history,” Sheriff Danny Bond told the al.com website.

He said at least two of the vehicles involved were 18-wheel trucks, and that four or five other people had suffered nonfatal injuries.

The driver of the van was pulled out alive by a bystander, witnesses said. The bystander then tried to help the children but was prevented by a fierce fire engulfing the vehicle, Garlock said.

The van driver was identified as Candice Gully, director of the girls farm in Tallapoosa County, an official with the state ranch system told al.com.

‘Suffered a great loss’

The SUV driver was identified as Cody Fox, 29, an emergency management worker from Tennessee. His fiancee was injured in the wreck.

Garlock said the crash scene was in an area notorious for hydroplaning as Interstate 65 curves down a steep hill.

Northbound and southbound traffic on the busy highway was halted for hours by the accident, but both had reopened by Sunday, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said on Twitter.

The Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch said it was providing grief counselors for children there.

“Our hearts are heavy today. Our ranch has suffered great loss… Please send prayers our way,” the ranch’s account said on Twitter.

The van in the accident was one of two bringing children back from a weeklong beach outing to nearby Gulf Shores, al.com reported. The other van was unscathed.

Storm Claudette, later downgraded to a tropical depression, has dumped heavy rain across the southeastern US.

The Tuscaloosa News said two people died — a 24-year-old man and his three-year-old son — when a tree fell on their house.

Claudette is forecast to return to tropical storm status on Monday over eastern North Carolina, before weakening again by Tuesday.

The system has washed out roads, trapped motorists in their cars, and flooded residential areas in the region, and the National Hurricane Center warned that further flooding was likely.

Passenger Tries To Break Into Cockpit On US Flight

 

 

A passenger on a US airplane tried to smash his way into the cockpit until another traveler and members of the aircrew tackled him and pinned him down, witnesses said.

The Delta Air flight from Los Angeles to Nashville made an emergency landing in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the man was dragged off the plane with his hands and feet secured by zip ties.

He had repeatedly screamed “Stop this plane” as he was wrestled to the floor at the front of the cabin, according to a phone camera footage of the incident on Friday.

An unnamed passenger told CNN that the man “seemingly unprovoked, just got up and rushed the pilot’s cabin and began banging on the doors.”

Another passenger, Jessica Robertson, described the scene as “terrifying” but praised flight attendants for acting quickly.

The FBI in Albuquerque confirmed on Twitter that it had responded to the incident.

Delta, in a statement to US media, expressed “thanks to the crew and passengers of Delta Flight 386, LAX to Nashville, who assisted in detaining an unruly passenger.

“The aircraft landed without incident and the passenger was removed by law enforcement.”

The remaining passengers spent five hours in Albuquerque before a new flight took them to Nashville.

AFP

Durant Scores 29 As Nets Roll Over Bucks In NBA Series Opener

Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets shoots the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks during Round 2, Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on June 5, 2021 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets shoots the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks during Round 2, Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on June 5, 2021, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NATHANIEL S. BUTLER / NBAE / GETTY IMAGES / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

 

Kevin Durant had 29 points and 10 rebounds as the Brooklyn Nets withstood Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 34-point performance to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 115-107 in the opening game of their second-round series.

The Nets won the battle between two of the NBA’s most potent offences on Saturday night despite losing James Harden to a nagging hamstring injury in the first minute of the game.

Harden was forced out just 43 seconds in, pulling up and grabbing the back of his leg after a drive. He did not return.

Kyrie Irving had 25 points and eight assists, Blake Griffin tallied 18 points and a team-high 14 rebounds for the Nets, who beat the Bucks in six games in 2003, the last time they met in the playoffs.

Journeyman Mike James came off the bench to score 12 points in the win.

“You never want to lose a guy like James but we have been in this situation before,” said Griffin. “I trust these guys.

“Everyone had to step up. We played like that most of the season. We got guys that step up and Kevin and Kyrie do what they do.”

Game two is on Monday in Brooklyn.

“Our defence was good, we didn’t give them too many wide-open looks. We cleaned up some things as the game went on,” said head coach Steve Nash.

Antetokounmpo, the two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, played 35 minutes, shooting 16 of 24 from the floor and grabbing 11 rebounds for the underdog Bucks, who led the league by averaging 120.1 points per game in the regular season.

“It was a little bit of everything. Shots didn’t go in. We did not compete as hard as we wanted to defensively,” said Antetokounmpo.

Both clubs came into the second round of the postseason after cruising through their opening series.

Milwaukee completed a four-game sweep of Miami last Saturday to reach the second round for the third straight season.

Brooklyn, who averaged 118.6 points during the regular season, needed five games to get past the Boston Celtics thanks in large part to the trio of Durant, Irving, and Harden.

Due to injuries and rest, the trio had played just eight games together during the regular season.

Brooklyn had hoped to have the big three healthy for the playoffs but have hit another injury snag with Harden going down in front of a crowd of 15,700 at Barclays Center arena.

The Nets announced later in the first half that Harden would undergo an MRI to determine the extent of the injury.

“It has happened to us all year that someone goes down,” said Nash. “We made a few plays. We hustled. It was great to see guys who hadn’t been in the rotation step up.

The 31-year-old Harden has had hamstring problems before, missing 21 games in April and May. The Nets are 20-17 without Harden and 29-7 with him in the lineup.

Harden averaged 27.8 points and 10.6 assists in the first round against the Celtics.

Antetokounmpo scored 10 points in the first quarter as the Bucks led 32-30 at the end of 12 minutes. Antetokounmpo said it didn’t change things when Harden got hurt.

“We still had our game plan. We still had a game plan for Kyrie and KD and Joe (Harris),” he said.

In the second quarter the teams exchanged runs as Brooklyn went on a 20-8 blitz to take a 59-48 lead but the Bucks clawed their way back with a 13-4 run of their own to get within two, 63-61, at the half.

The Nets went on another 12-4 run to end the third to take a commanding 98-84 lead into the fourth quarter.

AFP

Biden Says To Push Putin At Summit To Protect Human Rights

In this file combination of pictures created on March 17, 2021 shows US President Joe Biden(L) during remarks on the implementation of the American Rescue Plan in the State Dining room of the White House in Washington, DC on March 15, 2021, and Russian President Vladimir Putin as he and his Turkish counterpart hold a joint press statement following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 5, 2020.
In this file combination of pictures created on March 17, 2021 shows US President Joe Biden(L) during remarks on the implementation of the American Rescue Plan in the State Dining room of the White House in Washington, DC on March 15, 2021, and Russian President Vladimir Putin as he and his Turkish counterpart hold a joint press statement following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 5, 2020.

 

President Joe Biden pledged Sunday to tell Russian leader Vladimir Putin at their June summit that Washington will not let Moscow “abuse” human rights.

The face-to-face meeting with the Kremlin leader comes amid levels of tension not seen for years, with Washington now dialing back its ambitions to little more than establishing a relationship in which both sides understand each other and can work together in specific areas.

“I’ll be meeting with President Putin in a couple of weeks in Geneva, making it clear that we will not — we will not stand by and let him abuse those rights,” Biden said in a speech on the summit, which is set for June 16.

READ ALSO: UK To Build New ‘National Flagship’ To Promote Post-Brexit Trade

Since taking office, Biden has imposed new sanctions against Moscow over what US authorities say was the Russian role in the massive SolarWinds cyber attack and repeated meddling in the 2020 presidential election.

In addition, Washington has harshly criticized Moscow for the near-death poisoning and subsequent imprisonment of one of the last open opponents to Putin, Alexei Navalny.

Tensions are also high over Ukraine, where Russia already controls swaths of territory and recently massed troops on the border in a new show of force.

Yet another focus is on Russian-dominated Belarus, which caused an uproar this week after authorities forced an airliner passing overhead to land, then arrested an opponent to President Alexander Lukashenko who had been aboard.

Two Dead, 10 Missing As Cuban Migrant Vessel Sinks Off Florida

In this handout image courtesy of the US Coast Guard the Coast Guard Cutter Resolute small boat crew rescues 8 people from the water approximately 18 miles southwest of Key West, Florida, May 27,2021.
In this handout image courtesy of the US Coast Guard the Coast Guard Cutter Resolute small boat crew rescues 8 people from the water approximately 18 miles southwest of Key West, Florida, May 27,2021.

 

 

The US Coast Guard was searching Friday for 10 people missing off Florida after a migrant vessel with 20 Cubans capsized.

Authorities reported late Thursday they had recovered two bodies near the Florida Keys and pulled eight people alive from the ocean.

The Coast Guard said on Twitter that “multiple air & surface assets” searched through the night would continue all day.

A Coast Guard crew was on a routine patrol Thursday when it spotted people in the water.

The survivors said they left Cuba’s Puerto de Mariel on Sunday and capsized at some point on Wednesday night.

The Coast Guard did not describe the vessel that the group came on, though it is common for Cubans trying to reach the United States by sea to take crude boats not suitable for navigating the Straits of Florida.

Cuba’s deepening economic crisis has sparked an increase in the number of people seeking to escape the island.

In the last eight months, the Coast Guard has intercepted 298 Cubans, compared with 49 individuals from October 2019 to September 2020.

US Formally Begins Withdrawing Troops From Afghanistan War

File photo taken of US Marines board a C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft. PHOTO: Wakil KOHSAR / AFP

 

The United States formally begins withdrawing its last troops from Afghanistan on Saturday, bringing its longest war nearer to an end but also heralding an uncertain future for a country in the tightening grip of an emboldened Taliban.

US officials on the ground say the withdrawal is already a work in progress — and May 1 is just a continuation — but Washington has made an issue of the date because it is a deadline agreed with the Taliban in 2020 to complete the pullout.

The skies above Kabul and nearby Bagram airbase have been buzzing with more US helicopter activity than usual as the pullout gears up, following the start Thursday of a concurrent NATO withdrawal.

READ ALSO: Kenya Eases Some Restrictions But Protests Still Banned

Afghan security forces were on high alert for any possible Taliban attacks on retreating American troops.

The US military said it had carried out a “precision strike” after an airfield in the southern province of Kandahar where it has a base was attacked.

The strike, which the military said destroyed more rockets aimed at the airfield, came after the base “received ineffective indirect fire” on Saturday afternoon that caused no damages.

“The Americans will formally begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan starting May 1 and the Taliban might increase the violence,” Acting Interior Minister Hayatullah Hayat told top police commanders, according to an audio clip given to reporters.

Afghan Acting Defence Minister Zia Yasin said US and allied troops will be leaving their bases and will gather at Bagram, the biggest American base in Afghanistan.

From there “they will go to their respective countries”, Yasin told reporters.

The prospect of an end to the US presence after 20 years comes despite fighting raging across the countryside in the absence of a peace deal.

A stark reminder of what remains came late Friday with a car bomb in Pul-e-Alam, south of the capital, killing at least 24 people and wounding 110 more.

 

– Taliban awaiting orders –

US President Joe Biden is determined to end what he called “the forever war”, announcing last month that the withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 American forces would be complete by the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

“A horrific attack 20 years ago… cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021,” he said.

The Taliban said the US troop withdrawal was to be completed by May 1 as agreed in last year’s accord with Washington, and warned it was a “clear violation” that the troops were not fully out.

“This in principle opens the way for our mujahideen to take appropriate action against the invading forces,” Mohammad Naeem, a Taliban spokesman told AFP, adding that the group was awaiting orders from its leaders.

Since the US withdrawal deal was struck the Taliban have not directly engaged foreign troops, but have mercilessly attacked government forces in the countryside and waged a terror campaign in urban areas.

The exit of US forces has only exacerbated the fear felt by ordinary Afghans.

“Everyone is scared that we might go back to the dark days of the Taliban era,” said Mena Nowrozi, who works at a private radio station in Kabul.

“The Taliban are still the same; they have not changed. The US should have extended their presence by at least a year or two,” she told AFP.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani insists that government forces — which for months have carried out most of the ground fighting against the Taliban — are “fully capable” of keeping the insurgents at bay.

He said the pullout also means the Taliban have no reason to fight.

“Who are you killing? What are you destroying? Your pretext of fighting the foreigners is now over,” Ghani said in a speech this week.

 

– Worst-case analysis –

Still, General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has not ruled out total chaos.

“On the worst-case analysis, you have a potential collapse of the government, a potential collapse of the military,” he said earlier this week.

“You have a civil war and all the humanitarian catastrophe that goes with it.”

Police officer Abdul Malik from the former insurgent bastion of Kandahar said they were prepared.

“We have to take care of our homeland… We will do our best to defend our soil,” he told AFP.

The US-led military onslaught in Afghanistan began in October 2001 in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

Two decades later, and after the death of almost 2,400 Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans, Biden says the final withdrawal was justified as US forces had now made sure the country cannot again become a base for foreign jihadists to plot against the West.

Concerns are high that the Taliban might yet strike at retreating US forces, and in the southern province of Kandahar — where the foes used to clash regularly — security sources say several areas are laden with explosives planted by the insurgents.

“If the Taliban attack retreating US or allied forces, it would be to bloody the nose of a defeated enemy and to humiliate it further,” said Afghanistan specialist Nishank Motwani.

AFP

Prince Harry Joins $1.7bn US Counseling Startup

 

Britain’s Prince Harry on Tuesday added to a growing portfolio of post-royal jobs, becoming “chief impact officer” at a San Francisco startup that provides mobile-based coaching, counseling, and mentorship.

Amid a highly public spat with Buckingham Palace, Harry and his American wife Meghan Markle, a mixed-race former television actress, now live in California after stepping away from royal duties.

An explosive interview they gave to Oprah Winfrey this month — in which they claimed an unnamed royal had asked how dark their baby’s skin would be — plunged the monarchy into its biggest crisis since the death of Harry’s mother, princess Diana, in 1997.

In his new role with BetterUp, the Duke of Sussex will champion the importance of maximizing human potential worldwide, according to chief executive Alexi Robichaux.

“I firmly believe that focusing on and prioritizing our mental fitness unlocks potential and opportunity that we never knew we had inside of us,” Prince Harry said in a BetterUp blog post.

“As the Royal Marine Commandos say, ‘It’s a state of mind.’ We all have it in us.”

READ ALSO: President Biden Calls For Assault Weapon Ban After Colorado Shooting

BetterUp’s platform combines behavioral science, artificial intelligence, and human coaching to optimize personal growth and professional development, according to the company, which last month announced it had raised $125 million in funding at a valuation of $1.73 billion.

In his new job, the prince — who said he had used the BetterUp platform himself — will not manage employees or have direct reports, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Founded in 2013, BetterUp has grown to more than 270 employees and a network of some 2,000 coaches.

A list of its clients included NASA, Chevron, Mars, Genentech, Snap, and Warner Media.

Since leaving their roles as working royals, Harry and Meghan have already signed lucrative digital media deals to capitalize on their celebrity — one to produce content for Netflix, and another to present podcasts for Spotify.

They have spoken of their desire “to do something of meaning, to do something that matters,” in California, where they have launched a wide-ranging non-profit organization named Archewell.

The couple have worked with a charity to hand out meals to chronically ill people in Los Angeles, and Markle — whose mother is Black — spoke out last year after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American killed in police custody.

Demand for coaching focused on employee well-being and development has grown “significantly” in the past year, according to BetterUp.

“Self-optimization is not about fixing something that’s broken,” Prince Harry said.

“It’s about becoming the best version of ourselves, with whatever life throws at us — someone who is ready for the next challenge and can meet setbacks with courage, confidence, and self-awareness.”

LeBron James Injury Rocks Lakers In Loss To Hawks, Depleted 76ers Cruise Past Kings

 

LeBron James crashed out of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 99-94 loss to the Atlanta Hawks Saturday with a right ankle injury that will sideline the NBA superstar indefinitely.

The Lakers superstar collapsed to the Staples Center court in agony after a collision with Atlanta’s Solomon Hill in the second quarter, crying out in pain and clutching his right ankle.

The 36-year-old returned briefly to hit a three-pointer before limping back to the locker room, knocking over a chair in frustration.

ESPN later reported that an MRI scan revealed a high ankle sprain and that James faced an “indefinite” injury layoff.

Depending on the severity, high ankle sprains can take anywhere from a few weeks up to several months to recover from.

James did not speak to reporters, but tweeted later that he would return as soon as possible.

“Nothing angers and saddens me more than not being available to and for my teammates!” James wrote. “I’m hurt inside and out right now. The road back from recovery begins now. Back soon like I never left.”

A lengthy layoff for James would be a devastating blow to the reigning champion Lakers, who are already without star Anthony Davis as he recovers from Achilles tendon trouble.

“It’s certainly going to be a challenge any time you’re undermanned,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “But if you play team-first basketball and you defend at our level you’ll have a chance to win and that’ll be our mindset.”

Lakers team-mates Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell admitted that the sight of James leaving the arena was unnerving.

“We do forget he’s human sometimes, to see him in pain like that,” said Harrell, who was unhappy with Hill’s dive for the ball that led to James’s injury.

“We don’t feel like it was one of those basketball-type plays,” Harrell said. “He had to go through his leg to get the ball.”

With James missing, the Lakers offense struggled to get in the groove as the Hawks — fueled by 27 points and 16 rebounds from John Collins — notched their eighth straight victory, the longest active streak in the league.

The Lakers fell to 28-14 to remain in second place in the Western Conference behind the Utah Jazz.

The Hawks improved to 22-20, tied for fourth with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference led by the Philadelphia 76ers — who beat the Sacramento Kings 129-105 despite the absences of three injured starters.

Shortly before tipoff, the Sixers announced that Ben Simmons would be sidelined with a sore left knee.

Joel Embiid missed his fourth straight game with a bone bruise in his left knee and Seth Curry was out with a sprained left ankle.

Tobias Harris led the Sixers with 29 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Shake Milton added 28 points and Danny Green chipped in 18.

Despite the lack of star-power, the 76ers set an early tone, scoring 42 points in the first quarter. They led wire-to-wire, pushing their advantage to as many as 36 points.

The Milwaukee Bucks kept the accelerator down, notching their sixth straight victory 120-113 over the San Antonio Spurs.

Two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo had 26 points and a season-high 15 assists to go with eight rebounds for Milwaukee.

Khris Middleton scored 23 points and Jrue Holiday added 21.

– Grizzlies bounce back –
In Memphis, the Grizzlies got the better of short-handed Golden State, turning the tables on the Warriors a night after losing to them with a 111-103 victory.

Jonas Valanciunas scored 19 points and pulled down 15 rebounds.

Dillon Brooks scored 19, Brandon Clarke scored 16, Ja Morant chipped in 14 with eight assists and the Grizzlies clamped down defensively in a tight fourth quarter to get the win.

The Warriors were without Stephen Curry for a second straight game as he recovers from a bruised tailbone. Kevon Looney, James Wiseman, and Eric Paschall were all sidelined by coronavirus contact tracing.